Home https://server7.kproxy.com/servlet/redirect.srv/sruj/smyrwpoii/p2/ World https://server7.kproxy.com/servlet/redirect.srv/sruj/smyrwpoii/p2/ This is what the coronavirus pandemic looks like when you don’t have the Internet

This is what the coronavirus pandemic looks like when you don’t have the Internet



They told her that a deadly virus “like a whooping cough” seized the land and had even hit the nearby town of Maicao. But she was skeptical that it was so close to home. “I don’t know if this is true,” said 38-year-old Montiel, who is part of the country’s largest indigenous group, Wayuu.

When the Colombian government issued a nationwide closure in late April, she and her husband were urged to stay home with their three children, stay away from other people, wash their hands and wear masks to avoid the virus that has killed more than 365,000 people worldwide.

But for Montiels, the home-order is its own kind of death sentence.

Prior to locking, Angela occasionally filled in a SIM card to use WhatsApp, but has not been able to recharge it since locking. Without an Internet connection, there is no way to “work remotely.” Angela knits traditional Wayuu mochila bags, but she can’t sell them on the street under the current restrictions.

Currently, her family has survived cash payments from the non-governmental organization Mercy Corps. It is impossible for her children to continue their education from home without access to school material online. As for updates, they are waiting for phone calls from friends or family who may be bringing news. Otherwise, they are in the dark.

“Since we don’t have TV, internet or anything, we don’t know if it’s still going on or whether it’s continuing, so we obviously can’t go out or move around,” Montiel said. “We are in despair.”

A family listens to an hour-long radio broadcast from their home in Funza, Colombia, where they have no Internet connection.
According to UN estimates, nearly half of the global population – 46% – is still not connected to the Internet. For these people, lockdown means missing out on immediate access to important public health information, external work opportunities, online learning, telemedicine appointments, digital grocery deliveries, live-streaming religious services – weddings and even funerals – as well as the myriad other ways in which we increasingly our lives are living online.

Governments around the world have pledged to provide universal access by 2020, but the digital divide is still running deep and also increasing inequality offline.

People in poor regions are less likely to be connected, as are women, older people, and those living in remote or rural areas. And in many cases, connecting can be strenuous – closures of offices, schools or public spaces, such as libraries and cafes, have cut off access for many.

“We have always said that there are about 3.5 billion people who are not connected, but we know it is more now because quite a few of the people who used to be connected in their workplaces and other public rooms, no longer have this access, ”said Eleanor Sarpong, Deputy Director of the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI).

“Covid-19 has shown that there is such a big gap, and it has actually come as a shock to some governments. When they asked their employees to leave work from home … many of them couldn’t.

Sarpong hopes the crisis will break through long-standing barriers to internet access – from a lack of political will to regulatory barriers and affordable data – to getting more of the world connected.

A4AI, a World Wide Web Foundation initiative founded by Tim Berners-Lee, recently shared a set of policy recommendations urging governments, businesses and civil society to take urgent action to bring as many people online as possible during the pandemic. Among their immediate recommendations are: eliminating consumer taxes on Internet services; cutting data fees for public websites; provision of affordable data packages; broadband extension; and rolling out free public Wi-Fi infrastructure. Some are already taking these steps.

“Governments need to look at Internet access, not as a luxury, but to see it as an opportunity that can transform their economies … I think it’s a wake up call for them,” Sarpong said.

A digital gender difference

Digital technologies have rapidly revolutionized life as we know it. But not everyone benefits equally, and many stay behind due to lack of infrastructure, reading and education.

Across the world’s least developed countries, only 19% of people are online. Men are 21% more likely than women to be connected – and that the gender gap only widens.

In India, an aggressive approach to digitization has shifted most public benefits online – from rations to pensions. Even before the pandemic, the country’s poorest depended on digital, despite half the population being offline.

The pandemic has only reinforced the irony of this situation.

When the crisis hit and India’s 1.3 billion people were swallowed up, the country’s informal economy stopped a screaming halt. So when the government announced that it would send direct cash transfers to vulnerable women, widows, the elderly and people with disabilities for three months from April 1, it was welcome news. But, sitting at home without smartphones, many were unable to access 500 to 1,000 rupees ($ 6 to $ 13) to help.
People wait outside a bank during lockdown in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, on April 9.

Lal Bai, a 65-year-old widow living in a secluded village in Rajasthan, was unable to withdraw the five miles to the nearest town to withdraw government cash, and had no means of accessing state funds online, so she quickly found even without food back home.

Awkward, Bai ended up right outside the door of Ombati Prajapati, who runs a digital services store in her village. “She was the only one who would help me.”

Prajapati is among 10,000 “soochnapreneurs” or digital entrepreneurs who have been trained and supported by the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), a New Delhi NGO, in rural parts of the country. In the midst of closure, they are helping to deliver key digital services, including remote banking, that allow people like Bai to raise cash using a mobile, biometric ATM. And they even help fight wrong information.

“It’s only because of the internet that I can see what’s happening and tell others that they have to wash their hands regularly with soap, use a cleanser, wear masks,” said Prajapati, 27. “I wouldn’t have been in able to help any of these people [if I had not learned how to use the internet]. I would not have been able to even help myself. “

Osama Manzar, a social entrepreneur and DEF founder, says their work on educating women like Prajapati has shown how important it is to have digital infrastructure available for the last mile – especially during a disaster.

“Connecting and accessing the Internet must be part of the basic human rights. It must be considered at the time of the pandemic and disaster, just as you provide access to food or water, there must be a way to provide access to data,” Manzar said.

A problem for rich countries too

The digital divide has long been considered a development issue. But the pandemic has emphasized that wealthy countries are also affected by digital deprivation.

More than four in 10 low-income households in America do not have access to broadband services, according to Pew’s surveys. And in the UK, 1.9 million households have no internet access, while tens of millions more rely on pay-as-you-go services to get online.

“Sometimes people talk about Covid-19 as a great leveler. But in fact, the way people experience the shutdown is not at all similar, “said Helen Milner, CEO of the Good Things Foundation, a UK charity working with the government to get more people online.
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“For many people, digital exclusion is just an extension of social exclusion that they face, and poverty is certainly part of it.”

The UK government recently launched a series of initiatives to help tackle digital exclusion. Among the schemes is a new campaign, DevicesDotNow, which asks companies to donate devices, Sims and mobile hotspots. The Good Things Foundation helps deliver the devices to those in need and helps with training. So far, they have distributed nearly 2,000 tablets
Among the recipients was Annette Addison, who lives alone in an apartment in Birmingham in central England and uses a wheelchair to get around. Before closing, she went to her local community center to access the internet and get help with her disability payments. But without a smartphone, she says she has felt isolated and in the dark about the status of her benefits.

“I wasn’t ready at all. I was very lonely and depressed when the lockdown first started, but since I’ve had the tablet … when I feel lonely, I can talk to my grandchildren or my daughter. with them because they’re always online. “

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On May 1, Addison turned 60. She celebrated with her grandchildren over a video chat on her new iPad – the same iPad she now uses to check her distribution portal. And she recently signed up for a dating site as well. “I feel like a teenager,” she said.

But as governments try to roll out digital services to the most used ones, the question remains: Who gets a device and who doesn’t?

Hafsha Shaikh, founder of SmartLyte, the digital literacy center that distributed the device to Addison, said it’s a matter that haunts her.

“This unit is not just about immediate support under Covid, but it is about opening the gate, to parents and to families, to aspirations and opportunities,” Shaikh said. There are currently 1,500 others on the waiting list.

“The biggest challenge is, who do I choose?”

CNN’s Swati Gupta and Jack Guy contributed to this report.


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